A Canticle for Cain

Written in the space of several hours the night before its graciously extended due date for Mr. Bonsignore’s Science Fiction & Fantasy Writing final paper. Emo? Perhaps. But it was an emo that let me pass the course..

Five inches? That’s a bit risky, thought Inanna. There are only two guards from what she can see by peeking through the doorway, and by the look of the blood caked onto the blades hanging by their dirty red robes, they’re not very experienced. Strange, considering the book is in this room. Might be a trap. Best start with four inches.

Cain taps her on the shoulder, giving her a pleading look. No, shoots back Inanna, he can’t do it. She gives him a stern, knowing look, reminding him of the last time he tried. Cain slinks back dejected, but Inanna places a comforting hand on his arm, then turns back to the other room.

The skinnier guard moves away from the pedestal he was watching and walks toward the shabbily dressed female prisoner bound to the wall next to a pedestal holding a book. The guard sneers at her before drawing his blade and tormenting her by lightly tracing it against her skin. The more heavyset guard smirks and approaches her with the same glint in his eyes.

Inanna’s eyes flare up with hatred. Screw four. These guys deserve six inches.

Inanna unsheathes the crucifix dagger from her belt and uncorks a vial of holy water. As she dips the blade in and takes it out, the drops of holy water that roll off of the dagger land on the floor and vaporize, leaving scorch marks. Inanna rolls up her sleeve to reveal an arm with numerous scars on it, but does not pause before taking a deep breath and cutting a six inch gash down her arm. Inanna brings the dagger back up and starts drawing a symbol in the air. The blood flows freely from the wound toward the dagger, defying gravity by being suspended in the air. It trails the dagger like ink to a calligrapher’s brush, this particular instrument six inches thick. As she finishes the large, intricate pattern, Inanna twirls the dagger to release its hold on her blood, then quickly severs the blood design’s connection to her wound. The wound immediately seals up and leaves another scar, as well as leaving Inanna dropping to one knee and panting.

“In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti,” Inanna mutters, before a blinding light fills the room.


The two guards are immersed in the prisoner when they notice a bright flash off to the side, near the doorway. As they turn around with swords in hand, they see Inanna and Cain walk into the room. The lustful smiles quickly turn into expressions of confusion and panic as a behemoth follows them through the doorway. The angelic humanoid figure stands over seven feet tall, his aqua skin covered in bundles of white robes with gold stitching. He shoots a confident and commanding gaze at the pair of guards from his unearthly grey eyes as he raises his arms a bit, palms upward. The air around him crackles with energy, streams of pure white light starting to swirl around in the palms of his hands.

The two guards regain their wits, and the skinny one makes a quick, short stab at the prisoner’s artery before drawing a pattern in the air like Inanna did. Unlike hers, his strokes are fast, thin, and jagged, with few curves. The bulkier guard rends the prisoner’s stomach, then makes large sweeping strokes in the air with the blood trailing behind the sword. Within seconds, the two finish off their patterns and exclaim, “In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti!”

The symbols transform into pitch black portals with the blood patterns hanging in front of them, a temporary gate to usher in the two demons that leap out of them. The scrawny guard’s demon resembles a cheetah with oversized teeth and burnt patches of fur. The other gate produces a dark red minotaur that exhales small jets of flame from its nostrils.

The two demons charge the angel, but he has already spent enough time collecting divine essence. The energy has materialized into spheres, and when he clenches his fists to absorb them, power flows through his arms and enlarges his muscles. The cheetah easily speeds ahead of the lumbering minotaur and leaps at the angel’s throat, but he catches it in midair and uses its momentum to slam it against the wall headfirst, causing it to crumble into dust.

The angel then braces himself and stops the minotaur’s charge by grabbing onto its horns. Slowly forcing the angel down, the beast draws in its breath, intending to roast the angel in close quarters. The angel mutters a word and a large translucent disc appears in front of the minotaur’s mouth as it exhales. Flames erupt from its mouth, but they are redirected back towards the minotaur because of the divine shield. It does not hurt the minotaur, but the flames make it lose sight of the grappled angel. He takes advantage of this by ducking and letting go of one its horns, using his free hand to thrust through its chest.

As the minotaur falls apart, the ashes of it and the cheetah are sucked back into their portals. The symbols that called them forth become etched onto the guards’ foreheads, and the guards keel over from an invisible agony. The angel walks toward the kneeling figures and lays his hands on their heads as if to absolve them. Power courses out of his arms, forcing their souls out of their bodies with one last agonizing twitch.

Gotta work fast before others arrive, Inanna thinks as she dashes past the angel toward the pedestal. She gives a single pitying glance toward the prisoner, but her eyes are set on the book lying on the altar. An awfully nondescript cover for such an evil artifact, thinks Inanna. She reaches toward the book and meets a little resistance as a red barrier forms around it, like the one the angel summoned.

“Corinthian, if you would?” The angel moves beside her and violently rips away the shield from the book with a single yank. Cain takes his place and quickly flips through the pages. He stops after a few seconds – bingo – and tears out one particular page to stuff in his pocket.

“Ave Maria, gratia plena; Dominus tecum,” Inanna murmurs with her hands over the book, and the lettering fades to leave a completely blank book. She closes the book and anoints her dagger again. Instead of cutting herself, she thrusts it through the angel, who begins to lose shape. The angel’s essence is used as the drawing medium, this pattern being a thin but long design with graceful curves. Inanna finishes off the design with the usual “In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti.” Another bright flash marks the disappearance of the angel and the summoning of a gigantic pure white owl. Inanna and Cain mount the beast and she kicks it into action, flying out of the room into a passageway at a blazing speed. Inanna wishes she could fight every single cultist and free every prisoner that she passes by. Cain clutches the beast for dear life.


It’s kind of beautiful, seeing the City of the Christ from the outside. Buildings as high as any owl could fly, with thousands of people milling back and forth in peace. All secure in the comforting image of their Christ. Or rather, the Antichrist. Inanna feels a pang of remorse thinking of all the people below acting as good citizens in order to be whisked away at the Third Coming. Inanna knows the truth. She has seen the warm interiors of the Church, and the fiery hellholes underneath them. She knows what the fanatical converts are given to do, starting with tormenting the “wicked” and moving on to using otherworldly beings in order to further their cause. Justified as long as they can be part of the next Rapture. Whatever it takes.

Inanna knows the truth, and Inanna knows better.


The owl touches down at a much more desolate place, a flimsy wooden shanty at the edge of town. Despite its appearance, a flood of relief washes over Inanna was she dismounts and lets the owl fly away into the sky so that she and Cain can enter the shack.

Home sweet home, or as sweet as a set of smelly, connected sewers can be. Inanna nods to many infirm and sick residents as she walks by the holes in the wall that serve as living spaces. The dimly lit tunnel leads to an even darker central gathering place, which remains gloomy despite candles and flashlights strewn everywhere. The Church would certainly pick up any attempt to tap into the power supply, and they barely had enough resources to survive, much less ease everyone’s eye strain.

Cain then strides proudly in front of her, marching toward one particular table in the center.
“Abel, I did it! Err, we did it,” glancing at Inanna. “With this sheet of paper, we can amplify our angels the same way they did to their demons when they destroyed Outpost #5.”

Cain pulls the torn piece of paper from his pocket and presents it to Abel as Inanna catches up and meets them at the table.

Abel warmly smiles at Cain. “You did a fantastic job, Cain, and you too, Inanna. Got exactly what we were looking for with nary a scratch on either of you.”

Cain seems humbled at the compliment, and asks in a much lower voice, “Do you think that I have been forgiven now? Will God accept my blood?”

A pained look flashes across Inanna’s face, which does not pass by Abel unnoticed as he gently says, “I believe that God is proud of you, brother, but it is not for me to decide. Before the end of the day, let us convene with our priest. Perhaps he will shed some light on the matter.”

The ambiguous statement gives Inanna the chills. No one knew why Cain’s first summoning had produced a demon, but it was the first time one had ever entered the sanctum and the last time Cain was allowed to summon.

“I understand, brother. I will try to be…patient.” Cain’s voice hints at something more, but neither of the two notice.

“In the meantime, start work on deciphering the text. We ought to fully understand its implications before we try to utilize the same amount of power that leveled the outpost.”

Cain nods, and scurries away with the paper to a slightly brighter room.

“And as for you,” Abel says to Inanna, perhaps you ought to get some rest. Sending out a call strong enough for angels to hear takes a lot of self-sacrifice, and it does not come without a toll. All of-,” Abel stutters as he looks toward Cain’s room, “most of us have been through it and know the fatigue that it brings.”

“I’m perfectly fine,” Inanna protests, “perhaps I can help plan another mission? Save some of our captured?”

“I would not want you to be among their ranks should you faint after a summoning. This sanctum may seem populated, but our numbers are very few. We can’t afford to lose any more.”

Inanna nods, and immediately feels guilty for forgetting about the friends and family she has lost to the Church. She wanted to help, but did she not vow to her diseased brother that she would live on in his memory? The sight of a few crucifix dagger-wielding members leaving the sewers lifts her spirits a bit, and she hugs Abel before retreating back to her bunk at the damper part of the sewers. She doesn’t sleep well, but she sleeps.


An earthquake jolts Inanna out of bed, and all she can see is dust and grit in the air. Coughing, she picks up her weapons and runs back into the main part of the sanctum. As she travels, she notices that for an earthquake, the rumbles have consistent pauses in between them. Strange behavior, she thinks, and realizes her error when she reaches the gathering place. The ground was shaking not because of tectonic movement, but because a twenty foot tall demon was pounding its massive feet into it as it lumbered toward the encampment.

It is in the shape of a chimera, but its moves are sluggish and pained despite the amount of force behind them. The eyes in its lion’s head roll around in a lazy stupor, giant veins bulge from its goat body, and its serpent tail trails along lifelessly, only to lash out at a blinding speed at random intervals, demolishing sections of the wall.

Enormous…even Abel can only make a thirteen foot angel, and that put him in bed rest for weeks. At least he’s doing what he can against that monstrosity, thinks Inanna as she sees Abel standing on a table directing his forces, forming lines of soldiers in practiced positions. Smaller demons stream out from behind the chimera, which the front line summoners slit their skin and start conjuring angels to meet. The air fills with flashes as more angels enter the fray, and the battle becomes fierce but immobile, neither side gaining or losing ground. Yet the colossus is on everyone’s mind, seeding dread and panic in the ranks.

The chimera is about to reach the front lines when a cry of agony pierces the air – from Abel. He vehemently rips out his heart and stakes it to the ground, slumping as a flash brings forth a goliath almost as mighty as the chimera. He hovers right above the ground, toes pointed down, arms outstretched to form a cross with his body. As he opens his sleeping eyes and sees the melee, his gentle visage turns into a grimace, and his radiant skin flares into a dazzling orange and it launches itself at the chimera. The two tumble around the corridor into the main room, crushing angels and demons alike.

No more death, no more friends…lost…no more friends, cries Inanna as she watches the violent struggle. She almost slips into a withdrawn state but is broken out of it as she hears cackling behind her, Cain’s voice permeating the air.

“Yes! Of course! Pure blood!”

Inanna pulls her eyes away from the frenzy in order to look behind her, seeing Cain running toward her holding a bundle of cloth in his arms.

“I know how they did it! I know how I can do it!”

Cain pulls out a crucifix dagger, and Inanna’s mind is filled with confusion. What does he think he’s doing? And then she sees the cloth slip away from the bundle.

“The purer the blood, the stronger the summon. That’s why I couldn’t do it, because I needed pure blood!”

He is screaming his lungs out as he runs toward the central room, but Inanna doesn’t comprehend it. No, no, no, NO! That’s your son you’re holding!

Cain’s eyes fill with rabid, zealous tears. “I’ll show you, Abel! I’ll show you all! I’ll make you proud, brother!”

Cain onto the table that Abel is lying dead on, and slices open the baby’s throat on top of him.

A portal opens in front of him, but it is neither a bright flash nor a black hole. Instead, it widens to reveal a red throne on top of a mountain of skulls, all in front of a scorched red landscape with geysers of fire and demons scuttling all around. The last thing that Cain’s ecstatic eyes and Inanna’s tear-filled eyes could see were clawed hands pulling a truly demonic horned head out of the portal. The last thing they heard was it rumble, “Pure blood for pure gain for pure evil.”

The remaining angels abandoned Earth, for they had no power in a Hell.

Yep, zomg, Steven isn’t totally ignorant! He actually knows about the Rapture and the Second Coming! I tried to fit in as many references and points of irony as I could, because it made it all the more fun to write. It’s hard to be referential without being obscure, sadly.

3 comments on A Canticle for Cain

  1. lol yeah i was very surprised you decided to include references to christianity in your story especially since you seem pretty indifferent about the faith. i like how you start in the middle of the story (or near the end) but you still give enough clues to let the reader know vaguely what’s going on. why were abel and inanna so clueless about cain’s cowardice and potential for evil? and why did you choose the name inanna?
    oh and when i first read the title, i thought you were going to find a way to justify cain or to put him in a better light. i guess not 😛

  2. It started with the idea of me writing a story about people gaining power by means of self-sacrifice. I then thought that the idea of cutting to summon angels would not only be unique and ironic but also provide a nice counterpart: the good people cut themselves, the bad people cut others.

    Once I started adding biblical references, I couldn’t stop. I had created the storyline in advance, and then warped it in order to fit in more references. I originally had a mother do the dirty deed in the final scene, but I realized how strong a parallel I could draw between the biblical Cain and my Cain. Rejected offerings, sibling rivalry, exile…

    Inanna is a Sumerian goddess who stole powers from another god, Enki, after travelling to his city Eridu. She then brought it back to her own city, Uruk, making it more powerful. The twist in my story is that even though Inanna does that, it is actually Enki that becomes more powerful because of her (or Cain’s) actions.

  3. Holy shit, Steve. That was craaazy. Loved how you described things and all those references, it was like Joyce deux aka. Scripture light with extra guilt!

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